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Race Relations Journal entry of DOOM!

This entry is pretty easy to follow even if you haven't read the articles. Basically, I read two articles that argued that "white folks" have no culture of our own, so we just exploit what is more "primitive and seductive". psshhoff Anyway, it's long... but interesting and some of the language is probably ill advised.

On Capitalism, Pop Culture, Art, and Race.


I found this week's topic interesting. Even though I've only studied media and its effects for a short time, this played in nicely. That being said, I have some thoughts.

I consider myself an insufferable realist. Logic is my weapon of choice and I brandish it about without shame. Thus, one thing that I really felt needed emphasis but received none is that in a market society everything is exploited. When you boil it down, that's exactly what capitalism does. Business is not a friendly realm, it's cut-throat. Big businesses, even more so; they are soul-less, soul-sucking vacuums that rely on and exploit lower class, low wage workers in order to mass produce a product that can accrue profits while the cost (and often quality) of the product in question stays relatively low - or at least tolerable for the majority of the middle class. Welcome to Capitalism 101, Intro to Tertiary America. Also, for the sake of clarification, mass media is not some benevolent stream of information seeking to enlighten and entertain the masses, supplying us with more social currency in a single episode of The real World, which is more ore less the exact opposite of "real", then we could ever possibly need over the span of our lifetimes. The media is a conglomeration of corporations packaging and producing a product in very high volume and at an exceedingly, almost alarmingly, fast rate. It is a business; a heartless, soul-less, beast.

Yet, our culture thrives on it. Most especially when considering the particular aspect summed up in two despicable words, "pop culture." Teens revel in it, celebrities constantly emerge and disappear, art evaporates and is replaced with flashing lights, bright colors, sex, drugs, and catchy slogans and melodies. If you have half a brain or any creativity you'll hate it (granted, this is just me being cynical. However, this is my journal and how I view pop.). It is shallow, repetitive, and one-dimensional. The "artists" often have the IQ of sloths, the collective depth of a kiddie pool, the integrity of a rat, and a memory like a steel trap. They recite their lines well, they remember their lyrics, but they don't live by the script and pretty soon their out of the scene and someone "real" will come forth and start singing about how things are so "Complicated" using very simple language, a cliche idea, and no doubt rejoicing in the fact that they've mastered a four syllable word.

Anyway, business = exploitation of resources. Media Icons (i.e. Jay-Z, Puffy, Britney Spears, etc.) = Products = Sell outs. No, they don't represent the real talent, thats why there's the "underground." Yes, pop genres are most recognized because they're the most general, basic representation possible that might appeal to the most people. Sheer economics. It's produced by the same companies that own the radio stations, that buy slots on MTV, it's going to be more prevalent. It sucks, but that's pop. A great big plastic wad of suckage. That being said, two more quick points. In capitalist/market society, power is in the dollar. "Whoever has the gold makes the rules." In the end, Dog & Trife just wanted money, regardless of where it came from, blacks or whites. Money is a necessary evil that sometimes forces us to wrestle with our own integrity. Unfortunately, sometimes desperation, necessity, and/or pragmatism may cause integrity to take a back seat; however, good things may result. Changes can be made by being inside the belly of the said beast. My second "quick point" is that "pop culture" is a leech. It sucks off the face of actual culture, commercializes it, and markets it to a broad audience. Yes, it's fake, but it can help unite people; especially when people find something they have na affinity with, explore its depths and origins, and find a culture/community/niche/what have you. A prime example is the popularity of music amongst teenagers. When adolescents come into maturity, especially in these "multimedia years", music serves as a common bond/interest leading them to find friends with mutual interests/preferences, as well as a medium that helps them explore and express themselves. "Nu Metal" may offend their ears, then that's not for them. "Dance" music might seem inane - because it is - but then they move on to something else. They can discover their limits via songs about sexuality, songs containing profanity based upon their reactions too such songs. I, for one, am still inextricably linked to my music and have much respect for those that have the good sense to appreciate it. However, the pop cover of the genre is different than the genre itself. "Pop punk" is not punk. Granted, it adopted the 3 chord patterns, parts of the fashion, skateboards, and a minor penchant for delinquency, but it's not punk. It's a cheap imitation, and the same goes for "pop-hop" vs. Hip-Hop and any of its subsets (i.e. Trip-Hop, Slam, etc.), or any other authentic non-popified genre.

It's in the origins of the genres and the genre itself that we find our affinities. Any pop-replica is too base/bland to be capable of a full reaction. If anything it's a blemish on the face of the genre. A disease or a bad game of telephone that gets progressively worse. Yeah, it can be amusing and a gateway, but talent? Not so much. And it is unfortunate that we don't hear more, because it's not that it isn't out there so much as it's silenced and drowned out by the corporations to the point where, in order to be successful, you almost have to lower yourself to their standards. Yes, fat white men in offices decide what music is on the airwaves. No, it's not cool, no it's not fair, but they've got the money and the job title. They've also got a dozen or so lawyers at their disposal, countless advertising companies to do their bidding, and hundreds of PR people that are damn good at covering their asses. I'd like to see affirmative action applied more in the music industry, or at least get some more information on it. However, the facts stand thus: 1) The continent was colonized by ambitious white men. 2) The country was founded by ambitious white men. 3) The economy flourished under the control of morally deficient ambitious white men. 4) The economy and government are still controlled by ambitious white men. That doesn't make it alright, but that's how it is. The good news is that people are finally really starting to do things about it. The Civil Rights Movement really set the ball rolling and has served as a unifier. Now, we have other forms of activism and activities that pull us together, which is what we've really been needing all along instead of complaining about things that are beyond our control. You can't just be "race-neutral", it's disingenuous and doesn't solve identity crises and/or race inequalities/issues. Lack of discussion has made it a really awkward topic to the point where we are all hypersensitive, constantly wondering if what we say or what someone else said can/could be construed as racism. Not only that, but we're looking too hard to find it. Hence, "unaware bigotry." I suggest another categorization, "unintentional bigotry."

Anyway, it isn't fair, or even ethical, to argue that two people of different races can't possibly feel or conceptualize the same emotions. Pain, as an irrational emotion (as are all emotions), is relative. For a naive person (perhaps someone lucky enough to not experience anything psychologically traumatic), the pain of their dog dieing could be on the same par with someone's mother passing away. Also, as we all grow in different environments, experience different things, and interpret the same things differently anyway, who is to say that it is even possible to relate 100% at all? Luckily, that's not what we're going for. It's impossible to relate exactly. We dont even remember things that have happened directly to us exactly as it happened so it's really a moot issue. However! We can, and often do, relate emotionally to certain people and situations because emotions are relative. Although person A may not know what it's like to lose their mother, they can empathize with person B because person A understands the grief and gravity of loss due to the loss of their dog. Therefore, I would argue that is perfectly possible for Eric Clapton to relate to Robert Johnson on a very intimate level, regardless of race. The fact that he may be able to market his music better than Johnson on grounds of race seems to me an unfair argument with unfortunate instances of truth. Sure, one of the record companies could be run by a bigot, but people that aren't aesthetically perfect aren't allowed on the stage anymore. Regardless, Clapton references Johnson, adores him, and glorifies his work with shameless approbation. And before it's even said, a black man doesn't need a white man's recommendation to succeed. Several people have sought out Robert Johnson without Clapton's direction to do so. It all boils down to similarity of interests. After all, Johnson himself tried to capitalize on his image and used several strategies and lived his life as a musician, manipulating the system that oppressed him and lead an the unconventional life that he wanted. Granted, he may not have "struck it big", but they don't call them "starving artists" for nothing. Art is a distinct part of culture. Music is one of the most expressive forms of art as it has the capacity of combining multiple senses (especially in live performances). Music is made because of feeling. Art is the process of putting your thoughts/feelings into a medium that others can interpret and understand. It doesn't have to have a message to be good, and our affinities make it good and draw us together, not the message if, in fact, it exists. Stout has an affinity with African Traditions, Billy Wimsatt has an affinity with Hip-Hop culture, Dog & Trife have an affinity with underground non-commercialized rap, and Clapton has an affinity with the blues music made by and life story of Robert Johnson. Sure, there's fanaticism, and I think that's one reason I didn't feel race was too prevalent in these articles and its presence seemed contrived. I think people who have an affinity with race and its effects sometimes, through fanaticism, make connections when there really are few or none. This could also be a result of, as mentioned earlier, hypersensitivity and over-awareness. After all, race doesn't always define how we act and develop, culture does. Environment does. Experience does. Otherwise, why did Wilmsatt make his choice? Fluke rebellion? I think not. In the words of Johanna Perez-Fox, "you can't act a race."


*phew* Fin.

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